As born-again Christian we are asked to “walk with God.” We are commonly asked, “How is your walk?” This is to be interpreted how is our relationship with God, a living working and personal relationship, which, as the work “walking” suggests, is not a static state, but a moving, progressive and growing relationship. For those who have read the Book of Job, we know well that trials and tribulations, afflictions of each and every kind may assail us and these may not be because we have done wrong. Indeed, quite the opposite; such afflictions may arise just because we have been doing good and doing well on our walk, and the enemy wishes to test us, as he did Job. Certainly, Jesus did not promise a trouble free life as a disciple of His. He did say, however that He would be with us and pray for us and help us through, warning us in First Peter 5:8 “Be sensible and vigilant, because your adversary the Devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking someone he may devour.”
The Bible contains many examples of bad things happening to God’s people. In many situations, the hand of God is clearly visible as He lifts them out from adversity and suffering, but many times when He does not. One thing is certain, God expects us to grow in our walk with Him. God expects us to grow in our relationship with Him and in the tests and the trials which come our way. Does God test us? Certainly Yes, for he tested Philip in John 6:5 and indeed confirms this test in v6 as it is written “And He said this to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.”
Throughout the New Testament, the words from the Apostles to their charges are typically admonitions to them to grow in Faith, as they compare them to new born babies. We read in First Corinthians 3:2 “I have fed you with milk and not with solid food, for you were not yet able to bear it; nor are you able even now.” And this is repeated in Hebrews 5:12 and 5:13 and First Peter 2:2. God expects Christians to move from a diet of the milk of the Gospel to the meat of the gospel, as they grow. In that growing, the relationship with God will also grow and in that growing, it will and it must, change. The relationship between God and a new believer is not the same as that which He expects to have with a mature believer, just as the relationship with any earthly father is not the same when the his child is a baby, as when he or she becomes a mature adult.
Let us look at the Old Testament and see how the relationship changes over time when it comes to the matter of the Israelites crossing water.
We all know the story of Moses leading his God’s people from Egyptian bondage and out into the desert. As the two million souls walked slowly forward into the desert and into the unknown, they were no doubt aware that a time was coming then Pharaoh would recover from the shock of the Passover night and call on his army to bring them back. Eventually, as the Israelite came to the barrier of the Red Sea, those stragglers at the rear of this mass of humanity eventually saw what they have been fearing; a low level cloud of sand, stretching from horizon to horizon; the massed army of Pharaoh on foot and on 600 chariots were closing in on them. The straggles knew that soon, perhaps a day later, Pharaoh would be upon them. As the news was passed to Moses, the Ehyptian army “overtook them camping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baal-zephon. And Pharaoh drew near, the sons of Israel lifted up their eyes. And, behold, the Egyptians marched after them. And they were very afraid. And the sons of Israel cried out to Jehovah” (Exodus 14:9b-10). But then again the situation began to change quickly as v13-16 “Moses said to the people, Do not fear. Stand still and see the salvation of Jehovah, which He will prepare for you this day. For the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you shall never see them anymore. Jehovah shall fight for you, and you shall be silent. And Jehovah said to Moses, Why do you cry to Me? Speak to the sons of Israel, that they go forward. But lift up your rod and stretch out your hand over the sea, and divide it. And the sons of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.”
To keep the Egyptian army at bay, “the Angel of God, the one who went before the camp of Israel, moved. And he went to the rear of them. And the pillar of the cloud went from in front of their face and it stood behind them. And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. And it was a cloudy and dark night, but it lit up the night, so that the one did not come near the other all night.” Then, vv21-22, “Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. And Jehovah caused the sea to recede by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the sons of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground. And the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.”
The Israelites were saved. The waters parted before them and they walked across on dry ground as the waters stood, piled high like walls, on either side of them, to the left and to the right.
This miracle is typical of the answered prayer of a new believer. It demonstrates the love and mercy of God in an immediate and unmistakeable demonstration of Himself. God gives us the signs and the answers and then says “do.” But by then he has demonstrated His power and glory, first by becoming a pillar of dark cloud and fire and then by parting the waters. I believe it took little faith for the two million Israelites to then cross over, for all around were the tangible signs of God and His handiwork, of His presence with them.
Let us now move forward some 40 years to a time when, other than Caleb and Joshua, all adults in the Egyptian exodus had died. The Israelites now faced a second expanse of water. This time, it was the rushing waters of the River of Jordan which was in full flood spate from the snow melt waters of the Lebanon hills. It was the last physical barrier between them and the Promised Land. Normally some 50-60 metres wide, the Jordan in harvest flood was now closer to about 150 meters wide. The story of this crossing is contained in Chapter 3 of the Book of Joshua. In v13-16 we read what the Lord had told Joshua, and Joshua now told the sons of Israel: “and it shall be, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that carry the ark of Jehovah, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above. And they shall stand all in a heap. And it happened, when the people moved from their tents to pass over Jordan, and as the priests carried the Ark of the Covenant before the people, and as those who bore the ark had come to Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bore the ark were dipped in the edge of the water (for Jordan overflows all its banks, all the time of harvest); that the waters which came down from above stopped and rose up all in a heap, very far from the city Adam that is beside Zaretan. And those that came down toward the sea of the plain, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over across from Jericho.”
For a second time, God parted the waters for the Israelites. But this time it was different. At the Red Sea, God had demonstrated His works before the Israelites crossed; this time, it was, in a sense, quite the opposite.
First, God required them to demonstrate faith before the miracle. He told them that until they set foot in the river, nothing would happen. They, the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant, had to take a “step of Faith” and step into the rushing Jordan, before the waters would abate, before anything would happen. Second, the waters were not to part right there before their eyes but were to stop and slowly pile up on their right. This is just what happened. As the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant stepped into the river, the waters piled up and began to flow backwards to towns to the north; the waters to the south, to the left of the priests dried as the waters slowly flowed away downstream to the Dead Sea, allowing almost two million Israelites to cross.
The message for the Israelites and for us is much the same. God was telling them: the first time I demonstrated who I am and what I can do. This time He is tell them: now, just trust me and all will continue just as it was! Or simply, “have Faith in Me.”
The writer of Hebrews 11:4 repeats this message clearly for us as he says “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” This is how it was for Joshua and the priests crossing the Jordan. This is how it us for us. This is what born-again Christians need to know, understand and trust in: the substance of things hoped for, in the evidence of things not seen.
When we are challenged, tested, oppressed or afflicted, the reasons matter not. The solution is all that matters. The solution is our Lord and Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth. We need to turn to Him in Faith. There is nothing more, there is nothing less. He is the answer and will meet us where we are. He is our deliverer, our help in times of trouble (Psalm 9:9).
When the waters of affliction are before me, I humbly pray before You that as You parted the waters for Moses and Joshua, that You will part them again for me. I acknowledge that at times my faith is weak, perhaps even lacking altogether as I am assaulted and pressured from all sides. I pray that You will renew my Faith with that of Jesus Himself, such that I am be totally changed for You and Your Kingdom. I bow before You, my Lord and my God, and ask that You will change me now from inside out such that my heart now beats for You and You alone. I freely give my will to You now. Use me Lord as You wish.
In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen and Amen.